Erin, can you introduce your company in few words?
Swiss Water® has one sole philosophy: a passion for crafting amazing decaffeinated coffee. The Swiss Water® Process is 100% free of chemical solvents, and uses only coffee, water, time, and temperature to remove the caffeine from specialty coffee, leaving the origin character untouched. The result is amazing coffee without caffeine.
Erin Reed, marketing director at Swiss Water®
Can you give us more precisions about the way this process works?
Raw, unroasted, green coffee is immersed in our all natural solvent that we call Green Coffee Extract (GCE). GCE is a water-based solution containing all of the same compounds naturally present in green coffee, except that it has no caffeine.
By soaking green coffee (high in caffeine) in GCE (no caffeine), an imbalance in caffeine is created. This imbalance causes the caffeine to migrate out (lots in the coffee, none in the GCE) naturally in a process known as diffusion, until both the green coffee and the GCE reach a state of equilibrium. The GCE, now containing caffeine, is filtered through our proprietary carbon filters that trap only the caffeine, restoring the GCE to its caffeine free state. This GCE is now returned to the green coffee to repeat the process. This cycle continues until the coffee is 99.9% caffeine free.
What are the main trends about decaf consumption in North America? Do you see any similarities with Europe?
Total decaf growth in the U.S. has exceeded 3% and specialty decaf* grew more than 8% over the past two years—outpacing that of regular coffee (< 1%).1 Reasons for growth include greater availability of high quality decaffeinated coffee and a consumer focus on wellness, which includes regulation of caffeine intake.
The trend in Europe is incredibly similar where total decaf has grown by 6% and specialty decaf by 11%, compared to regular at 4%.2 The underlying drivers are similar, although the specialty coffee segment is still developing, so we can anticipate further trajectory for decaf as more high quality options becomes available to consumers with its expansion.
What are the main opportunities for a roaster on the decaf market on your point of view?
Consumers want to enjoy coffee all day but also want to manage the intake and effects of caffeine. So it follows that the role decaf plays in the industry is the ability to sell one more cup of coffee when the consumer has hit their self-identified caffeine limit. And as regular coffee quality has improved, those who also drink decaf expect it to taste just as good (and pssst: they are willing to pay more for it). After all, they are consuming for the taste alone. Decaffeinated coffee is not a substitute for regular coffee; it is an incremental purchase: if consumers aren’t provided a good decaf option, they’ll simply switch to another roaster or a different beverage option.
Historically roasters have used a low quality green coffee and an inexpensive, chemical-based decaffeination process which results in a mediocre coffee at its very best. However, with the Swiss Water Process, roasters have the opportunity to offer a high quality decaf since our process preserves the origin characteristics of the green coffee. We have the capability to process in small batches and have produced some very high quality small batch offerings.
Coming back to Swiss Water, what make you special in the decaf industry?
Swiss Water is the only company that is focused exclusively on decaffeination without chemical solvents. We are wholly consumed with delivering the end product of amazing coffee without caffeine through a clean process. Our passion applies to the process itself: we have a mantra for continuous improvement and apply strenuous quality measurements and controls, including six sigma methodologies. It also manifests itself in other areas, including internal research on a number of topics (not limited to decaf—we were among the first to explore water activity!), staff participation in industry competitions, and the knowledge and tools we provide to help roasters get the most out of their decaf.
We are also proud of our sustainability efforts. Our process was originally conceived as an alternative to methylene chloride and is certified organic. But beyond that, we pay careful attention to internal resource usage and have successfully reduced consumption and waste in numerous areas. In addition, we support origin communities through our green coffee buying and donations to organizations dedicated to ensuring the future of coffee and the wellbeing of those that support it.
We know that you have lots of marketing supports for the roasters who choose working with you. Can you describe the tools they can have access to and how they can get them?
We want to help roasters meet their aspirations for great coffee through decaf. And we want to help them sell more decaf through the value of the Swiss Water brand, which signals high quality, chemical-free decaf to consumers. Among the available resources from Swiss Water are:
Any roaster who purchases Swiss Water Process decaffeinated coffee can register for our Education and Support Program to obtain access.
* Defined as espresso based beverages, blended/frozen and French press
1 StudyLogic US Consumer Panel Data 2016 vs 2018
2 StudyLogic Western Europe Consumer Panel Data 2016 vs 2018
Report: Belco field study of decaffeination processes
Decaffeinated coffees are attracting interest from a new public, more mindful of cup quality, which is something that many decaffeination professionals have clearly understood. At Belco, we place a high priority on integrity, and are firmly commited to supplying quality green coffees. This is why we chose to study the different decaffeination technologies more closely, in order to choose the one that best meets our quality standards. As a result of this research, we are today able to answer many questions and concerns and put paid to some preconceived ideas about “decaf” coffee.
We currently work with four partners, who decaffeinate our coffees using three different processes. César, our quality manager, has travelled the world to find out exactly what each decaffeination process involves. From Canada to Germany, via Colombia and Mexico, click on the links below to read our reports :
Espresso or Filter - guess where is hiding more caffeine ?
CO2 decaffeination - Behind the doors of the CR3 plant (Germany)
Water decaffeination - Visit of the Mountain Water plant (Mexico)
Sugar cane decaffeination - Visit of the Descafecol plant (Colombia)
Water decaffeination - Interview with Erin Reed, Director of marketing at Swiss Water (Canada)